Lesson 12: How old are you?



Asking a person’s age is a very sensitive subject in the West as they feel that it is a very private matter. However, in countries like China, Japan, Korea, asking for a person’s age is part and parcel of their culture. Do you like people to ask about your age?


Although age is a sensitive issue, we will learn how to ask this question in our lesson today. Before going into the dialogue, we would like to go through how the year, month and day is used in Chinese. And, we will also touch on the Chinese zodiac signs as well.


The twelve Chinese zodiac signs are:-


Simplified Chinese Pinyin English
Shǔ Rat
Niú Cow, Ox
Lóng Dragon
Shé Snake
Yáng Goat
Hou Monkey
Gǒu Dog
Zhū Pig


Now, we will learn how to express the date and month in Chinese. In Chinese, the numbers in the year are read out as separate numbers unlike in English. And the Chinese word (nián) is placed at the end. For example,


一九九六年                Yī jiǔ jiǔ liù nián                    1976

二零零零年                Èr líng líng líng nián                2000

二零一一年                Èr ling yī yī nián                                  2011


The 12 months of the year are expressed by combining the numbers 1-12 with the Chinese word 月. For example,

Simplified Chinese Pinyin English
一月 Yī yuè January
二月 Èr yuè February
三月 Sān yuè March
四月 Sì yuè April
五月 Wǔ yuè May
六月 Liù yuè June
七月 Qī yuè July
八月 Bā yuè August
九月 Jiǔ yuè September
十月 Shíyu yuè October
十一月 Shí yī yuè November
十二月 Shí èr yuè December


When expressing the dates in Chinese, we combine the numbers from 1-30(or 31) with the Chinese word in spoken form or in written form. For example,


一月一号                    Yī yuè yī hào                          January 1

九月一号                    Jiǔ yuè yī hào                          September 1

十一月二十九日        Shí yī yuè èr shí jiǔ rì              November 29

十二月二十五日        Shí èr yuè èr shí wǔ rì                        December 25


If you are telling someone a date in the current month, you can omit saying the month 月and just simply say the date 号. As we have already touched on the days of the week in our previous lesson, we will not teach you again here.


In Chinese, the word order for expressing the year, month, day and week is:-


2011年十月一日 星期六      Èr ling yī yī nián  shí yuè yī rì  xīng qí liù

(Oct 1st 2011 Saturday)


In today’s dialogue, Zhang Yun was on her way to the supermarket when she saw Wang Li with a little girl.


张云:               喂,王丽

王丽        哦,是你张云

张云        这位小妹妹是谁?

王丽        她是我侄女叫晶晶。

张云        她今年多大?

王丽        她2009年九月一日出生,属牛。她今年两岁。

张云        真可爱。你们现在要去哪儿?

王丽        去公园玩。

张云        你们去玩吧。改天见。

王丽        好的。再见。


Zhāng yún:      Wèi, wáng lì

Wáng lì:           ó, shì nǐ zhāng yún

Zhāng yún:      zhè wèi xiǎo mèimei shì shuí?

Wáng lì:                       tā shì wǒ zhí nǚ jiào jīng jīng.

Zhāng yún:      tā jīn nián duōdà?

Wáng lì:           tā 2009 nián jiǔ yuè yī rì chū shēng, shǔ niú. Tā jīn nián liǎng suì.

Zhāng yún:      zhēn kě’ài. Nǐ men xiàn zài yào qù nǎ’er?

Wáng lì:           qù gōng yuán wán.

Zhāng yún:      nǐ men qù wán ba. Gǎi tiān jiàn.

Wáng lì:           hǎo de. Zài jiàn.


Zhang Yun:     Hey, Wang Li.

Wang Li:         Oh, it’s you, Zhang Yun

Zhang Yun:      Who is this little girl?

Wang Li:         She is my niece name Jing Jing

Zhang Yun:      How old is she?

Wang Li:             She was born in September 1st 2009, in the year of the ox. She is two this year.

Zhang Yun:          She is so cute. Where are you going?

Wang Li:             To play in the park

Zhang Yun:          Go then. I’ll see you next time.

Wang Li:             Ok. Bye.


位 is a measurement word you use when talking about a person. In the dialogue, 这位 is used to mean this person. You can substitute the noun 妹妹 to 先生 (Mr) or 小姐 (Ms).


今年多大 is a question you ask when asking for a person’s age. Another way of asking the same question is 今年几岁. 几 as mentioned in our previous lesson means a question pronoun to ask about numbers. 岁 means age and 岁月 means year. There is this saying in Chinese 岁月不留人 Suì yuè bù liú rén, it means time flies and wait for no man. This is a Chinese idiom normally used when someone wants to say that he/she is getting old and no longer young. When you are asking a senior about his/her age, you have to say 你今年多大岁数 Nǐ jīn nián duō dà suì shu?


改天见 is a another phrase you can use when bidding someone goodbye. 改 means to change or correct; 天 is sky or day and 见 is to see. When you use the Chinese word 改 and add 天, it means another day 改天 Gǎitiān. Other farewell phrase you can use are 再见Zàijiàn (Goodbye), 待会儿见 dài huìr jiàn (see you later), 明天见 míngtiān jiàn (see you tomorrow).


On that note, we come to the end of this lesson. See you again for our next one. 再见 Zàijiàn.

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